Book Quote

I was going to do one of these every week but it hasn’t worked out that way. Anyway, today’s quote is from Excession by Iain M. Banks.

I think a little explanation might be required for those not familiar with Banks’ Culture novels or especially for those not very familiar with science fiction in general. In this series of novels space ships, space stations, and a lot of other technological things are intelligent, sentient, and have feelings. The following paragraph describes some of the thoughts and feelings of one of the ships in the story. (Italics in original)

It was a warship, after all. It was built, designed to glory in destruction, when it was considered appropriate. It found, as it was rightly and properly supposed to, an awful beauty in both the weaponry of war and the violence and devastation which that weaponry was capable of inflicting, and yet it knew that attractiveness stemmed from a kind of insecurity, a sort of childishness. It could see that – by some criteria – a warship, just by the perfectly articulated purity of its purpose, was the most beautiful single artifact the Culture was capable of producing, and at the same time understand the paucity of moral vision such a judgement implied. To fully appreciate the beauty of the weapon was to admit to a kind of shortsightedness close to blindness, to confess to a sort of stupidity. The weapon was not itself; nothing was solely itself. The weapon, like anything else, could only finally be judged by the effect it had on others, by the consequences it produced in some outside context, by its place in the rest of the universe. By this measure the love, or just the appreciation, of weapons was a kind of tragedy.

7 thoughts on “Book Quote

  1. LeeAnn

    I love all the Culture books. I have to read passages twice, maybe three times to follow what’s going on, but I do love them. He’s on my short list of favorite authors.

  2. Lynn Post author

    It’s a really interesting universe. Excession is the third one I’ve read. I think I’m going to have to read it again and take notes. There are so many different scenes and characters it’s hard to remember what I read six chapters ago when they finally get back to an earlier scene and I’ll be sitting here going, “Wait… What? Who?

  3. Hippie

    Neal Asher’s Polity AI’s could kick the Culture AI’s butts.

    I like the Polity universe because for the most part, the materials mentioned/used in spacecraft/android/habitat construction are plausible. None of this nonsense Star Trek made up nonsense like “Duranium”.

  4. Lynn Post author

    I don’t care so much about plausibility. I’m not that much of a science geek. I just want interesting and imaginative stories. I like some of the ideas in the Culture series, like the orbitals. I know he stole that one from Larry Niven but I still like Banks’ version. The Polity novels are a lot more fun though. Banks’ characters are sort of flat.

  5. Hippie

    “I may be AI, but I still have feelings, you know.” -Jack Ketch, attack ship AI, “Brass Man”

    I’d really like to see some of the materials mentioned in Asher’s novels. The “Ceramal” is something I think is possible, as soon as we can get ourselves some zero-g manufacturing capability, which you’d think all these money grubbing idiots who run everything would be falling over themselves to implement.

  6. Lynn Post author

    I actually think that will happen now that private companies are starting to get into space travel. Not as soon as we would like but certainly in decades not centuries.

  7. Lynn Post author

    Also… it’s never the money grubbers who make things happen. It’s the dreamers and they usually don’t have much money.

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